Find Your NIA It Lives In Your Community As It Lived In These Communities
HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE "NIA" KWANZAA
When nobody else is moving and the students are moving, they are the leadership for everybody.”
Mississippi Civil Rights worker 1963
In conjunction with my efforts to focus on the seven principles of Kwanzaa. Today I direct my historical perspectives to the principle of PURPOSE. I wanted to ensure that my younger brothers and sisters out there indeed as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Kwanzaa this year. In the infancy of the establishment of this cultural celebration. Your ancestors who were facing insurmountable odds defied those who sought to bind them in continued bondage.
They fought and thought with purpose and worked together to make our days so much better than the days they were encountering. They did indeed energize those who started the illustrious cause to project black power and black people’s belief in self to make the decision to forge ahead. So let’s begin today’s essay on PURPOSE a historical perspective by looking at 4 experiences that truly illuminated the principle that each of us should ingrain in our daily lives.
Off the beaten path of America’s soiled path of dishing injustice in America, I always think about these towns and counties as the heartbeats of the revolutionary movement in the history of the civil rights struggle in America. Oh, of course, you can easily recognize the cities of Selma, Montgomery, Birmingham, Washington DC, Oakland, Harlem, and Memphis. All of these cities played a significant role or were the sight of a magnificence for events that moved the needle of equality and justice in America for blacks forward.
However, today’s “historical perspective on purpose” post directs itself to 4 tiny hamlets that indeed created a true atmosphere of revolutionary confrontation against injustice by young black people in our nation during the decades of 1960’s. This is the 51st year since the birth of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense as well as the 51st year of the birth of Kwanzaa. I could’ve focused my attention on the singular action of those brothers and sisters of the Bay Area as I discussed purpose this morning.
However, in these 4 enclaves purpose by the supposed meek defined action against the powerful. They would likely be appalled by what our communities have sunken to in terms of visible signs of continued self-hate and despair. You see that ascribed to more than 6% black economic returns to be reinvested in our dilapidated communities. We must be reinvigorated to a purpose of an action to correct all that ill's our communities. They stood for more than a beret, shades, and a leather jacket each of these hamlets wanted to achieve black power and as a byproduct of that power incorporate the love of all things that signified blackness.
Do I do these hamlets in alphabetical order? I could start with Cambridge, Maryland since it is located about 73 miles from where I grew up. Gloria Richardson had already lived 40 years when she was thrust into the fight for civil rights in 1962. Gloria was not a lady to be trifled with by those in the white establishment. Gloria Richardson was also not one to turn the other cheek when she was confronted by those dishing injustice.
Not many people know this but only three women spoke during the historic March on Washington in 1963. Daisy Bates, who played the lead role in desegregating Central High School in 1957, Josephine Baker, and Gloria Richardson. Daisy spoke for all of 90 seconds and Gloria Richardson said hello upon being introduced and had the microphone snatched from her. Not many people know that the black community’s first lady of civil rights Rosa Parks while at the March on Washington in 1963 but wasn’t given the opportunity to speak to the crowd. I’ve come to find out that the Justice Department controlled the microphone and speaking systems on the Mall that day. Josephine Baker's speech was historic she spoke with such purpose.
Those controlling the microphone probably knew that they couldn’t control Gloria Richardson’s fiery voice or her demand for justice whatever the cost. Gloria Richardson also invited H. Rap Brown to speak in Cambridge, Maryland after she met him in New York City. Brown was chairman of SNCC(Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) at the time. It was at the speech that Brown proclaimed the following; “if America doesn't come around, we’re gonna burn it down”. Well, Cambridge, Maryland did, in fact, burn after Brown’s speech.
However, it was not the sole reason for the community’s outrage. The outburst of violence may have been instigated by the speech. However, the absolute atmosphere of oppression and repression which forced the majority black population of Cambridge, Maryland to live like second class citizens was the actual cause of the riot in 1967. Throughout the movement in the sixties whenever Gloria Richardson was called out it was met the highest esteem in our black communities.
If you were young, black and proud and from Maryland, you knew the name, Gloria Richardson. One of the most iconic photos of that period of time is Gloria Henderson staring down the barrel of a rifle held by a Maryland National Guard Trooper. Gloria Richardson was about living black militancy while fighting for equality and justice. Gloria Richardson was never about seeking fake dollars or projecting her feminine power by shaking her hips or wearing scanty clothes on her body. Gloria Richardson and the black peoples of Cambridge, Maryland fulfilled the promise and principles of purpose.
Greenwood, Mississippi why you say well one simple reason and one simple date in time. Greenwood on located on the edge of Mississippi Delta. So many of our brothers and sisters made their way to Greenwood, Mississippi to fight for the civil rights of people who were shackled by the oppressive hatred of segregation.
Yet, on June 16, 1966, two words evoked by Stokely Carmichael brought the world’s attention to this hamlet soiled in racist injustice. Two words that demanded that peoples oppressed and repressed would no longer be the willing victims of injustice without reaction. Two words that were heard on the streets of Oakland that moved two brothers to define a reaction later that year. Those words need I even have to repeat them black power; yes, Stokely, called out that night what do we want: the black peoples of Mississippi answered and America would never be the same.
So my brothers and sisters on that day and on that field for all the world to hear. The cause of the movement was defined and the time for our people to gain hope was now beyond reproach, Black Power, say it loud and say clear Black Power, that is why Greenwood, Mississippi should still mean so much to those in our communities today. Had not Stokely evoked the words as well as provoked the listening black nation? The dynamic words that moved a nation of peoples. Two words that would excite the movement in Oakland and been birthed the Black Panthers for Self Defense later that year? Brother Carmichael spoke that night and many nights after of a collective black power which involved economic, judicial, civil, educational power.
All these facets of black power in the hand of the many in our communities. Stokely wasn’t speaking of black power in the hands of just a few black elites. Stokely demanded that black power is derived and centered on the common man brothers and sisters. The accumulated wealth that was driven in America by segregation and prejudices had to be redistributed. Understand this my younger readers you cannot wear a revolution, you cannot dance and gyrate your way to equality and justice. Stokely asked that night in Greenwood, Mississippi for the common black man and woman to demand a higher purpose towards real change. We as a community of people are still seeking that change and we can only achieve by unity of purpose.
Let’s move to Jonesboro, Louisiana and move towards the year 1964. The south was no place for any black man wanting to fight for his freedom. Although, the civil rights freedom movement focused on Gandhi’s principle of non-violence. The reality of the situation was that the need for protection for those who sought to fight for rights needed protection. They could indeed be killed without impunity, they could be murdered in plain sight by any white person with an urge to kill. If you fought for justice and against the tools of segregation. If a justice-seeking person either black or white put himself out on the battlefields fighting injustice. That person placed a huge target on your chest for those searching to murder and silence them.
So tired of seeing his churches and institutions being threatened Earnest “Chilly Willy” Thomas 29 years at the time decided to create an organization that would protect those who couldn’t seemingly protect themselves. Deacons for Defense and Justice it was called and protecting those in dire need of protection was the cause.
Why deacons; the term ‘deacons’ was selected to beguile local whites by portraying the organization as an innocent church group....” Did these brothers act righteously protecting those who worked to provide rights to those languishing in oppression and repression? You, damn right they did. Also, did the Deacons For Defense impact the brothers on the west coast?
Did they along with Stokley Carmichael ignite starting a movement that built an organization that would address this aspect of community protection? You damn right they did. Oh, and the Deacons for Defense and Justice yeah they were patrolling for grounds in Greenwood, Mississippi the night Stokley Carmichael made his dynamic call for black power. Those brothers understood that evil never understood nor accepted the concept of nonviolence. Those who dealt injustice and hatred were always on the lookout for vengeance.
The Deacons For Defense well their very presence mitigated these hateful folks efforts mightily. That is why Jonesboro, Louisiana means something special and should always mean something to all of us in the black communities. This is why Ernest Thomas understood the principle of purpose which directed his actions to protect and defend those who fought for our freedoms.
Finally, the final hamlet of confrontation against those who repressed and oppressed, Lowndes County, Alabama you need to etch this area in Alabama in your mind forever. It was in this county that the panther was born. You know that panther, that sleek, powerful black panther that symbolized the west coast organization in Oakland, California. Well before the brothers and sisters selected the black panther as the symbol this panther appeared in Lowndes County, Alabama. It was the symbol of the Lowndes County Freedom Organization. This magnificent body of black men and women developed LCFO as an all-black, independent, political party, the original Black Panther Party.
Therein Lowndes, as he was in Greenwood, Mississippi was Brother Stokley Carmichael organizing for SNCC to register voters in a county where 80% of the residents were black but not one black was registered to vote in 1965. With the passage of the Voting Rights of 1965, the effort began to register every single black person in Lowndes County, Alabama. It was the plan of SNCC’s leaders to take away the power of those whites who had dished oppression and created repressed, horrible conditions for black people in that county. In 1965, they chose the panther as the symbol of the party; “The Black Panther is an animal that when pressured it moves back until it is cornered, then it comes out fighting for life or death.
We felt we had been pushed back long enough and that it was time for Negroes to come out and take over.” It was the intention of those now granted the right to vote to utilize every available resource to ensure that the takeover of Lowndes County, Alabama by its majority black populace would be successful. Hence, the creation of their own political party and because every party in Alabama was required to have a symbol the panther was born. Although the election was stolen by whites using fraud, voter intimidation, voter suppression the fact that in a little less than an eleven month period of time. These warriors for justice proved to themselves and others in that community.
That this party would be a force to reckoned with not only in Lowndes County, Alabama but in the entire nation. From this hamlet, the call was heard that black power could be a realization, not some black man’s imagination. From Lowndes, Alabama where also the Deacons for Defense and Justice protected those who couldn’t protect themselves manned polling stations and ensure all that they could assist in voting have that right to vote.
From Lowndes County, Alabama Stokley Carmichael honed his ten-point plan for blacks in America to begin to gain their voice and hence their power. It was from all these efforts from these tiny hamlets and small towns the confrontational process of gaining respect and self-worth was being maximized. The residents of Lowndes County, Alabama stuck the bell loudly for our civil rights and they indeed defined action with purpose. We must never forget their efforts to achieve justice for Black Americans, and all righteous Americans in this nation.
So when people this year talk of the 51st year anniversary of the celebration of Kwanzaa understand my brothers and sisters that the roots of that fruit were planted in these hamlets across our nation. Don’t forget these facts because if you do you are ignoring these men and women who placed their very lives on the line. So that today our communities can lift up the word PURPOSE in our homes today.
If we understand their sacrifices maybe we would easily pull the trigger against those of our same color? If you hear the towns of Cambridge, Greenwood, Jonesboro or Lowndes County mentioned you had to stand up and felt the power of PURPOSE because PURPOSE indeed drove their actions to better our lives today.